EU health policy – Consilium – Health News Today


EU member states are responsible for organising and delivering health services and medical care. The EU’s role in health policy is therefore complementary to national policies.

EU policies and actions in public health aim to:

  • protect and improve the health of EU citizens
  • support the modernisation of health infrastructure
  • improve the efficiency of Europe’s health systems
  • strengthen preparedness and response measures to cross-border health threats

Coordination on public health issues is a necessary consequence of the free movement of people and goods in the internal market. EU cooperation serves to  tackle common health challenges resulting for example from antimicrobial resistance, preventable chronic diseases and an aging population.

A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in all Union policies and activities.

Article 168 of the TFEU (legal basis for the EU’s health policy)

The EU adopts laws and recommendations to protect people. Those measures cover health products and patients’ rights.

Key measures in the EU’s health policy

Areas where the EU has adopted legislation include:

  • patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare
  • medicines and medical devices
  • serious cross-border health threats
  • cancer, tobacco and promotion of good health
  • organs, blood, tissues and cells

Patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare

Under EU law, EU citizens have the right to access healthcare in any EU member state and to be reimbursed for care abroad by their home country. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) ensures that necessary healthcare is provided under the same conditions and at the same cost as people insured in that country.

Additionally, an EU directive on patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare, setting out the conditions under which a patient may travel to another EU country to receive medical care and reimbursement.

Medicines and medical devices

The EU regulates the authorisation of medicines at EU level by the European Medicines Agency or at national level by the competent authorities in EU countries. Special rules exist for the authorisation of:

  • medicinal products for paediatric use
  • orphan medicines (used to treat, diagnose or prevent rare diseases affecting no more than 5 in 10 000 people in the EU)
  • traditional herbal medicines
  • vaccines

The EU also regulates the clinical trials that provides the data used for the authorisation. The aim is to guarantee the safety, efficacy and quality of medicinal products. Once placed on the market, the safety of a medicinal product continues to be monitored throughout its entire lifespan through the EU system of pharmacovigilance.

The European Medicines Agency was established in 1995 and is the a European network comprising over 40 national regulatory authorities. This guarantees a constant exchange and flow of information regarding…

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